With the new year coming, now is a good time to look at new year celebrations from around the world. It seems that every culture and every country have their own dedicated celebrations for the coming of the new year.
In Asia, the ‘new year’ usually refers to the lunar new year. These celebration typically vary per country but overall have the same symbolic meaning. That meaning is to welcome the new year and the beginning of spring.
For today, we will have a look at what you can expect in the Asian region, specifically Vietnam, Thailand, and China.
Vietnam: Tết Holiday
In Vietnam, Tết is the name given to the new year holiday period. It is based on the Lunar calendar, taking place on the first day of the lunar year. This usually corresponds to late January to early February time. During this period, you will hear many people saying ‘Chúc Mừng Năm Mới’ as a greeting, which means Happy New Year.
It is considered unlucky to clean your house during the holiday so, as Tết approaches, people will make sure everything is spotless. It is a very family orientated holiday. Families will eat together and children will receive red envelopes filled with money from their elders. It is also common to have visitors who will determine the family’s luck for the whole year.
There are many foods associated with the holiday, including sticky rice cake (Bánh chưng), candied fruits (Mứt), and red sticky rice (xôi gấc). Along with chicken, these foods are commonly associated with Tết so expect to see and eat a lot of them.
While being family orientated, there are many celebrations to take part in and traditional foods to try, making it a great experience.
Thailand – Songkran Festival
The new year in Thailand is welcomed with Songkran (เทศกาลสงกรานต์). It is celebrated at the same time each year – April 13th – though the holiday period extends from the 12th to the 16th. Each region of Thailand has their own celebrations, though there are several traditions that occur around the country.
Also known as the Water Festival, Songkran is usually celebrated with water fights. It is a common sight to see people throwing water over each other in celebration. Chalk is also commonly used as a way of blessing others. As the new year takes place during the hottest times of the year, the water fights are actually very welcome.
Songkran has very much been influenced by Buddhist culture. Merit-making, which involves visiting temples and offering food to the monks, plays a big role. Ancestors are also an important aspect of the celebrations. Other traditions include a ‘Miss Songkran’ competition is also held during the holiday.
Greetings you can use include ‘Suk San Wan song Kran’ (สุขสันต์วันสงกรานต์) which means ‘Happy Songkran Day’. Overall, Songkran is a very exciting and unique holiday. It is a lot of fun to take part in.
China – Spring Festival
The Chinese New Year, Spring Festival (春节), is perhaps the most famous. Celebrated by Chinese communities worldwide, it is an important date in the Chinese calendar. It takes place at the appearance of the new moon between late January and early February.
According to the Chinese Zodiac, each year is associated with an animal. This supposedly determines the relationships people make and a persons personality. Therefore, these are considered an important consideration for the new year.
There are numerous customs and traditions that take place during the holidays. Understandably for a country the size of China, there is a lot of variance between regions. It has evolved over the years from being a deity worship celebration to a more family orientated occasion.
From house cleaning to family meals, a lot goes on over the almost 2 week long holiday. Fireworks, paper cutouts, lanterns and poetry make up a large part of the celebrations. Popular food includes boiled chicken, fish, and buddhas delight, a vegetarian dish that follows an old tradition of avoiding meat for the first 5 days of the new year. Dragon dances are also a popular tradition to look out for.
There are numerous ways to greet people and wish them a happy new year. Of course, this again depends on where you are in the country, especially as the language can vary a lot between regions. The most standard greeting is probably ‘xīnnián kuàilè’ (新年快乐) or ‘Happy New Year’ so you shouldn’t go wrong using that.
Chinese new year is probably the oldest new year celebration that has influenced the surrounding region. Travel can be a nightmare at this time as the population try to get home for the holidays. If that is not a problem then it is definitely a holiday worth seeing for yourself.
New Year, New Experiences
If you are out and about travelling over this new year period, there are plenty of different experiences you can choose from. Just remember that transport around these times will be very slow, making it difficult to get around.
While they all have similar concepts, each country and even regions within a country celebrate their new year differently. If you are tired of watching the countdowns every year, these celebrations will definitely be a much more interesting time.